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Pregnant Florida Woman Moves 1,200 Miles to Avoid the Zika Virus

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tiger mosquitoThe Zika virus is striking fear into the hearts of pregnant women across the world, and with good reason.  The effects of Zika on a fetus’ brain can be horrifying, and this is the baby’s brain we’re talking about. We don’t fuck around or take risks with babies’ brains. That’s why some women who find themselves pregnant in Florida are decamping for places without Zika virus.

According to SheKnows, Zika cases have been diagnosed in Miami, and the CDC is recommending that pregnant women not travel there. But women live and work in Miami, and some of those women are pregnant. Miami resident Christina Frigo was 32 weeks pregnant when Zika was first confirmed in the area. She told SheKnows that at first she panicked, and then she thought maybe she should just leave.

“In the five days between when I heard the news of local transmission and when we made the decision to leave, I was feeling the most stressed and scared that I have felt during my entire pregnancy,” she said.

Frigo thought first of going to stay with her in-laws in Boca Raton, but her OBGYN said that wasn’t far enough to guarantee an absence of Zika. So Frigo thought of going to stay with her parents in Chicago.

“When we mentioned Chicago as an option, he told us that if we could make it happen, it was a good idea to go,” she said of her OBGYN’s response.

The ability to “make it happen” is a key issue here. Frigo had parents in Chicago ready to take her in, and the resources to get there. She is lucky, and I would have done the exact same thing in her shoes. My parents are in Chicago, and I have the freedom and means, and if I were pregnant and heard Zika were in my city, I’d have been wrapped in mosquito netting and sitting on a plane so fast it would make your head spin. Frigo had a fetus to protect and the means to do so, and that is fantastic for her. Now she and her fetus are safe in Chicago enjoying peace of mind in the last weeks of her pregnancy. But it’s important to note that a lot of people don’t have that, and we need to take steps to protect and support the people who can’t leave.

Mobility is a privilege that a lot of people don’t have, and people who have it often take it for granted. Travel tickets, accommodation, and the ability to take time off work without starving are things a lot of people can’t manage.

Reproductive rights, epidemics, violence, and natural disasters are among the reasons a person might want to leave a place if they had the option. But if you’re poor, you’re stuck. And yet the political narrative tends to forget that people can get stuck. “Why didn’t you leave?” people, pundits, and politicians will ask in numerous cases when there are actually a lot of reasons a person didn’t leave.

Women in Zika-infected areas can still protect themselves. Closing windows and using air conditioning (which also costs money), installing window screens and mosquito nets, and removing standing water from around the property are big steps towards reducing the likelihood of contraction of Zika. But “reducing the chance” and being completely protected are very different things. A lot of pregnant women in Florida right now are terrified of what could be happening to their babies. They need to be helped, and health authorities need to take this seriously. Zika is a way bigger deal than that recent Ebola scare, and we need to be at least as proactive about fighting Zika and protecting people from contracting it as we were about quarantining people who kinda sorta maybe might have been near Ebola back when that was the front-of-mind health concern in the U.S..